Humanitarian aid volunteers were found guilty Friday on charges over leaving aid in a restricted area of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
Judge Bernardo Velasco found No More Deaths volunteer Natalie Hoffman guilty of three charges, while Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick were found guilty of two charges.
As the defendants await sentencing, they face a maximum penalty of six months in prison.
The case surrounds an incident on August 13, 2017 when they drove into the wildlife refuge, to leave aid in the desert. All four are charged with entering the refuge without a permit and abandonment of property, the property being the water and food they left in the desert.
No More Deaths has been providing aid for people crossing through the deserts along the US-Mexico border for more than a decade. The group leaves the supplies in Cabeza Prieta, because it shares a 50 mile border with Mexico.
Judge Velasco chastised the group No More Deaths for not warning the defendants of the repercussions for leaving aid for desperate people who might otherwise die in the desert.
“No one in charge of No More Deaths ever informed them that their conduct could be prosecuted as a criminal offense nor did any of the defendants make any independent inquiry into the legality or consequences of their activities,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
A press release from No More Deaths read:
“This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers, but people of conscience throughout the country,” “If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?”
The last time someone was found guilty for providing humanitarian aid along the border was a decade ago. Dan Millis was charged for leaving gallons of water in the desert in 2008, the verdict was overturned two years later.
Four more people are scheduled to begin trials on February 26 for providing humanitarian aid.